kids encyclopedia robot

Radioisotope thermoelectric generator facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Cutdrawing of an GPHS-RTG
Diagram of an RTG used on the Cassini probe

A radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG, RITEG) is an electrical generator that uses an array of thermocouples to convert the heat released by the decay of a suitable radioactive material into electricity by the Seebeck effect. This generator has no moving parts.

RTGs have been used as power sources in satellites, space probes, and uncrewed remote facilities such as a series of lighthouses built by the former Soviet Union inside the Arctic Circle. RTGs are usually the most desirable power source for unmaintained situations that need a few hundred watts (or less) of power for durations too long for fuel cells, batteries, or generators to provide economically, and in places where solar cells are not practical. Safe use of RTGs requires containment of the radioisotopes long after the productive life of the unit. The expense of RTGs tends to limit their use to niche applications in extreme situations.

Images for kids

kids search engine
Radioisotope thermoelectric generator Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.